Our Group Text Is Driving Us Crazy

Is your group chat devolving into a dumpster fire? Group texting seems to inspire a certain love-hate feeling. It’s an efficient way to plan a gathering or keep in touch with close friends and family. It’s more immediate than email, less time-consuming than the phone. The social phenomenon can also become an etiquette minefield.
  1. 1.
    Crissy Milazzo, a 25-year-old writer in L.A., says she prefers to stick to topics appropriate for a dinner party. Milazzo also encourages group texters to read previous messages before introducing a new topic. She recalls the time a friend shared some bad news, and another participant jumped in with a text about wanting a pumpkin-spice latte.
  2. 2.
    “For such a little thing, it has so many pitfalls,” says Lizzie Post, author and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute, and the great-great-granddaughter of the famed etiquette scribe who has a big group text with her golfing friends.
  3. 3.
    Steve Williams, a 28-year-old high-school history teacher and football coach who lives in Washington, D.C., says his six group-text threads help him keep up with friends he might have lost touch with. “I find phone conversations with other dudes to be kind of awkward,” he says. “Texting is much easier.”
  4. 4.
    More than nine out of 10 people with a smartphone use some sort of text or messaging app, according to Simmons Research. Nearly a third of smartphone users send at least 95 messages a week, in the form of a text, picture or video. Some of the heaviest users—more than one in six—send 23 messages in a day.
  5. 5.
    Some group texters thrive on introducing controversial or mundane subjects. A response—or, worse, a lack of response—creates new problems. And leaving a group text isn’t as easy as just unsubscribing; it comes with the risk of alienating friends.
  6. 6.
    Lurkers, those people on the thread who never respond, bother Dorian Parks, a 20-year-old sophomore at Texas State University in San Marcos, who uses a group text for scheduling with his intramural basketball team. He says he is often tempted to ask, “Can I get a confirmation that you saw this message?”
  7. 7.
    But that didn’t solve the problem. “I would come back and see there were 276 unread messages,” says Mr. Marra. So he left the group. One year later, his friends are still giving him a hard time about it. “They have specifically berated me for being too good for the group text,” Mr Marra says. He worries he came off as arrogant or condescending.
  8. 8.
    Group-texting apps like GroupMe help manage notifications. Mike Marra, a 35-year-old attorney who lives in New York, used his iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” option to get a handle on a group text with high-school friends. He found their play-by-play of every Mets game distracting, he says, and he didn’t need to witness the “minutia of everyday life.”
  9. 9.
    Jen Reiber Walsh, an event planner in San Francisco, has more than 10 group texts going at the moment. She likes using some of them to share “life updates” including photos of her children, ages 4 and 2. “It’s very, very casual,” the 33-year-old says of group texting. “And it’s more intimate than a social media post.”